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Great Grasses

It’s hard to beat hardy perennial grasses for simple ornamental appeal and minimal maintenance. Here are some of our top suggestions to bring some texture to your garden that will withstand the summer heat.

 
Feather Reed Grass – Calamagrostis x acutifolia

The tall and slender growth habit, and graceful plumes of tan flowers that sway in the wind, combine to make feather reed grass the undisputed king of perennial grasses in our area. ‘Karl Foerster’ is the most popular for its tallest growth habit and simple green blades, but the variegated forms are outstanding too - look for ‘Overdam’ and ‘Avalanche’ for white striping, and ‘Eldorado’ for golden striping on the blades. Ht: 4-5 feet, Sp: 2 feet, Zone 3, Sun

 

 
Dwarf Palm Sedge – Carex muskigumensis ‘Little Midge’

Sedge are among the most versatile grasses, tolerating sun or shade, but preferring moist soils. Mainly compact clumping grasses, they make excellent accents for the front of a border. This selection has dense, somewhat tiered growth that resembles a tiny palm. Brown flowers appear in summer. Ht: 12-16 inches, Sp: 12 inches, Zone 4, Sun to pt. shade

 

 

 
Blue Fescue – Festuca glauca

Always a favorite, fescue is a dwarf grass forming small tufts of steel blue to powder blue foliage, topped by tan flower spikes in summer. Though ‘Elijah Blue’ is the most popular cultivar, also try ‘Boulder Blue’ and ‘Blue Fox’ which are very similar. Drought tolerant once established, it requires full sun for the best color and performance. Ht: 8-12 inches, Sp: 10-12 inches, Zone 3, Sun

 

 
Blue Oat Grass – Helictrotrichon sempervirens

Another perennial favorite, blue oat grass gives the same steel-blue color of blue fescue in a larger clumping grass. Plant this in combination with yellow and purple colored plants to make all your friends and neighbors say “Wow!” Drought tolerant once established and very hardy. Ht: 3 feet, Sp: 2-3 feet, Zone 3, Sun

 

 

 
Golden Japanese Forest Grass – Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Although less winter hardy than others, this unique Asian grass will give you a bamboo-like texture, performing best in shady areas. Given some shelter from the winter cold, it can do well in our area. The gracefully arching blades are striped in gold, and a white-striped variety, ‘Albostriata’, is also available. Prefers moist, well-drained soil. Ht: 12-24 inches, Sp: 18-24 inches, Zone 4, Shade

 

 

 
‘Malepartus’ Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’

Maiden grass is a stunning and imposing grass that, although frequently rated zone 5 by growers, does very well in our area. This tall selection produces incredible white plumes in summer atop stately clumps of green blades. A unique choice for a focal point or backdrop in sun. Ht: 5-6 feet, Sp: 3 feet, Zone 4, Sun

 

 

 
‘Flamingo’ Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’

Very similar to ‘Malepartus’, this selection of maiden grass has the same arching, mid-green blades, but features plumes of bright pink flowers instead of white. Ht: 5-6 feet, Sp: 3 feet, Zone 4, Sun

 

 

 
‘Heavy Metal’ Switch Grass – Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

This rugged grass forms a clump of upright, metallic blue blades which develop burgundy-red tips later in the season. Airy inflorescences appear above the foliage in late summer. Drought tolerant once established. Ht: 4-5 feet, Sp: 2-3 feet, Zone 4, Sun

 

 

 
‘Thundercloud’ Switch Grass – Panicum virgatum ‘Thundercloud’

A tall selection of switch grass which produces an airy cloud of pinkish flowers in late summer, atop a clump of stiff, upright, blue-green blades. Drought tolerant once established. Ht: 6 feet, Sp: 2-3 feet, Zone 4, Sun

 

 

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